October 7, 2010

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 10: DaneelAH -- Malacandra

On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official United Faith in Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Murderers, Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Molesters, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters, go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story.
When DaneelAH got back to his suite four hours later, there was a message on his console.
Scowling, he touched the accept tab. A three dimensional image of Mayor Turin sprang up. She said, “I’ve decided to increase dome dusting to alternating every other day and every week.”
“Work it out,” she said. The image disappeared.
There was a second message. Irritated, he touched the accept tab. The Mayor sprang up again. She looked at him and said, “I’m also creating a new position for you. It will be in addition to your other duties. You are my new forensic xenoarchaeologist. Your first assignment is to find out whatever happened to the Viking 1 lander.”
The message cut him off, continuing, “I don’t need to give you any explanation. You’re an artificial human and have no rights.” DaneelAH couldn’t help but bow his head, a reflex of shame. She didn’t elaborate any further and said, “But I’ll offer you this: while Viking transmitted its data, there is fragmented evidence that there is recorded data on board pointing to an alien incursion into the Solar System.” The image winked out, leaving him staring at the empty space.
Shaking his head, he went to his computer desk and touched it. A light inside flickered as if there was a short. A message floated to the surface. DaneelAH’s head jerked back as he read, “System down. See system administrator.”
“What…” He paused, expecting another message. He glared at the accept tab. It remained dark. “How am I supposed to figure out a schedule for the dust vacuums without using the system?” He glared at the desk then said, “Fine then. I’ll have to do it by hand.” Shaking his head, he strode to his closet, opened it and pulled down his kpad – a portable version of his desk. He’d last used it a few months after Turin had captured them. He’d used it to learn the Malacandra Dome SOP – Standard Operating Procedure and put it away when he was promoted.
He dropped down on his bunk, hunched over the kpad and got to work.
Four days after their meeting with Mayor Turin of Malacandra, DaneelAH, MishAH, AzAH and HanAH stepped out into the intense light of early morning on Mars.
DaneelAH glanced up at the dome and said, “Cleaning day. We’ll have strong light for the next ten days then it’ll fade as the dust gathers.”
“Why can’t they go back to daily cleaning?” AzAH asked.
“Never happen,” he said, gesturing to the fields of faded green. “We’re not selling enough on the soybean market, so we can’t pull any more water – of course we need the water, so we have cut down on the light intensity, so we cut back on cleaning.”
“Anyone know why we’re here?” AzAH asked, smiling at them all.
HanAH rolled his eyes and grumped back, “Do you have to always be so…perky?”
“You’re just jealous. Frowning all the time is wrinkling your face,” she said.
“It takes fewer facial muscles to scowl than to smile. You think my face is wrinkly? You won’t need a mask for the Halloween Ball if yours gets any saggier.”
As she opened her mouth to snap back a reply, a marsbug sank from the surface of the dome and banged against the ground before the tires inflated.
The four artificial humans stared at the ‘bug. HanAH said, “What’s this for?”
The hatch hissed and opened, extending a ramp that almost crushed AzAH’s feet as it clanged to the sidewalk. A speaker on the roof squealed with feedback then a voice boomed from it, “Artificial Humans Daneel, Az, Mish and Han please board this ship under orders from Malacondran Mayor Angaleese Turin, your owner.”
The ‘bug didn’t move or speak. Neither did they. Finally DaneelAH asked, “Where are we going?”
The ‘bug boomed, “Outpost Cydonia.”
“We’re going to the Face On Mars?” MishAH exclaimed.
“The Face On Mars?” DaneelAH exclaimed.
A soft voice hissed from inside, “The Face On Mars…”

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